Sexual Assault at Universities: let’s start the conversation.

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I paid £9,250 a year to go to university to LEARN. A considerable amount of money to live and socialise in an environment which is unfortunately unsafe to many. Over my three years at university, it has become the social norm at universities for someone to have their bum squeezed on night out. It’s a censored topic quite often worldwide that shouldn’t be censored.  It’s uncomfortable because it happens regularly and so many people have adapted it as a normal behaviour so we become desensitised to it. For instance a bum squeeze we don’t necessarily associate things with sexual assault. Sexual assault isn’t just rape, it comes in many different forms and we should not stand for any of it.

The official definition of sexual assault is:  ‘Sexual assault is when a person is coerced or physically forced to engage against their will, or when a person, male or female, touches another person sexually without their consent. Touching can be done with any part of the body or with an object. Sexual penetration is when a person (male or female) penetrates the vagina or anus of another person with any part of their body or an object without that person’s consent.’

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It is about time that universities and student’s union step up to support their students. There needs to be a development of how students can report assault when it happens and the further support they receive. I have spoken to students who have dropped out of their institutions following sexual assault and have been neglected by their universities. Some had even communicated that they were made to still live in their room that the assault happened because they did not want to press charges to the police. Earlier this year my best friend and I had enough of sexual assault being the normal around us. We put flyers around the university and kept an anonymous campaign. The posters featured emojis of the peach and the aubergine. While the response was mainly positive from the student body and it started many conversations, there was still a negative reaction. That it was unkind of the starter to have chosen such emojis. Instead of people developing conversations about making a change they picked faults in the posters. Picking faults in the posters are easier to do than to actually comprehend that there is a real issue at hand.

It’s a sad world we live in where we still will blame the victims of sexual assault. The movement like MeToo has allowed communication to start but now it’s time for real change amongst student bodies. There needs to be awareness spread. After starting our campaign, I felt very supported by our student body. The Instagram we created gained 1500 views in the first week, had over 300 followers and 100s of shares on people’s stories (including staff members!) We then realised working together with our university would allow real change to be created, we suggested many ideas to our university, but they seemed to be ignored. What turned into what we thought was the university working alongside us, was actually tarnished when they then took down our posters and threw them in the bin. We had spent considerable time and money making these posters for them to have been torn down to protect the universities image.

Still to this day I do not know who to go to at my university if I have been assaulted. However, it is important to remember to communicate with someone. You are not alone and there are many people around you that want to support you. You have a right to feel safe at university. Sometimes it is scary to get the police involved and this leads people to be lost with who to turn to. If you are sexually assaulted and need some advice immediately this website linked is a good place to go. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/help-after-rape-and-sexual-assault/

We tend to forget in these situations that there is usually a third party, a bystander. If you’re a bystander, please remember you can use your voice to protect others and check if the party involved is okay. See something, say something. We need to work together to support each other, whether you know the person who was assaulted or not, be there to help them. I hope that universities become a safer environment and that we all begin to support the safety of one another.

Students should feel confident and comfortable that their university will support them in these situations. I hope that universities around the country and world begin to step up their support. It’s time we allow all voices to be heard and protected. Remember to tell someone and know that you are not alone.

We’re starting the conversation. We are here to raise awareness and educate the students so that we can create a safer university. It is now time for you and your universities to take ACTION.

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